Anti-abortion groups warn of potential ‘late-term abortions’ in Ohio. Experts say term is false.

By: - May 30, 2023 5:00 am

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Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment have said Ohioans should be wary of legalizing abortion for fear of “late-term abortions.”

But medical experts and abortion rights advocates are quick to point out that the term isn’t used in reproductive health.

In a recent publication by the Catholic Conference of Ohio, the group encouraged standing against the amendment, saying it “furthers a culture of death and removes current safeguards for women.”

Among the arguments the conference lay out, it makes a claim that the amendment would allow a physician to “justify a woman’s anxiety or depression as a reason for late-term abortion.”

In fact, the amendment allows for abortion to be prohibited “after fetal viability,” defined as “the point in a pregnancy, when in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures.”

The amendment language would bar any regulations against abortion “if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

Beyond the fact that the amendment doesn’t specifically mention “late-term abortion,” abortion rights advocates say the term doesn’t exist in the medical field.

“When (anti-abortion rights advocates) talk about late-term abortion, late-term abortion is a made up term,” said Maggie Scotece, interim executive director of Abortion Fund Ohio.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, members of the medical community criticize the term “as it implies abortions are taking place after a pregnancy has reached ‘term’ (37 weeks) or ‘late term’ (past 41 weeks) which is false,” the non-profit said in a fact sheet.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the phrase “has no clinical or medical significance.”

Late-term gestation, however, is an important thing to talk about, even thought it simply indicates the period just before a pregnancy comes to full term, a time when some pregnant people are often just starting their care due to access or finances, according to Scotece.

“Patients who get later care almost always would have wanted to get care earlier in their pregnancy, but couldn’t,” Scotece said. “Pregnancy complications, a lot of times, aren’t discovered until the later gestation because (the complications) haven’t developed.”

Those against abortion, including legislators who attempted to regulate it, have also used the phrase “partial-birth abortion,” another term not typically used in the medical field, but was instead coined by a national right to life organization in the 1990s.

With Ohio’s six-week abortion ban held up in court, abortion is currently legal in Ohio up to 21 weeks. That was the case in 2021 as well, when the most recent state report on abortions came out.

In the report, the Ohio Department of Health reported that more than 60% of abortions in the state happened at less than nine weeks gestation. Abortions occurring at 19-20 weeks gestation amounted to only 1.5% of all abortions and less than 1% of abortions reported happened at 21 weeks and over.

Of the abortions happening at more than 19 weeks gestation, only two were considered viable.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.